Tasmanian councils vote on TasWater takeover on Thursday

TasWater chairman Miles Hampton

TasWater chairman Miles Hampton

The state government says it will push ahead with a TasWater takeover, regardless of how councils vote on the issue at Thursday’s Local Government Association of Tasmania general meeting.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein has persistently argued that the takeover would speed up much needed capital upgrades on water and sewerage infrastructure and lead to lower household water bills.

But TasWater chairman Miles Hampton, who has urged councils to reject the takeover, said analysis showed a takeover would significantly increase debt levels and render the company unsustainable.

“This has been modelled using the latest available information from the government and still shows that debt levels would be increased to $1.48 billion and that a further $160 million would need to be funded from other sources,” he said in a report provided to local government heads.

He said the government’s plan to cap price rises at 2.5 per cent was at odds with the National Water Initiative, which supported independent price-setting, and further escalated the risk to TasWater’s viability.

Mr Gutwein on Tuesday wrote to mayors and general managers, outlining the reasons why the government wanted to take over TasWater.

He said the government remained committed to the takeover plan even if the councils did not agree with it.

"I fully expect tomorrow that local government will vote for self-interest; that they will maintain the status quo," he said.

Labor finance spokesman Scott Bacon on Wednesday turned his sights on the federal budget and accused the state government of not doing enough to secure much-needed money for water and sewerage projects.

"Despite all of Peter Gutwein's bluster about the state of our water and sewerage assets, he failed to secure one additional cent in last night's budget," Mr Bacon said. 

Mr Gutwein said the state government would seek project funding whenever it could from the federal government but was prepared to go it alone with the water and sewerage fix at this stage.

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